CLIFTONVILLE 2 BALLYMENA UTD 0
Goals in either half from James Knowles and Jude Winchester maintained Cliftonville’s good form at the expense of Ballymena United.
The visitors were not without chances of their own – indeed, home stopper Peter Burke earned the man of the match award – but the Reds did enough to get themselves over the line.
Having already seen a penalty appeal turned down by referee Tim Marshall, Cliftonville broke the deadlock when Knowles converted from the spot after Kyle Owens had blocked a Davy McDaid drive with a hand.
Burke’s smart save from Cathair Friel maintained the home side’s advantage early in the second period ahead of Winchester making it 2-0 when he touched McDaid’s in from close range.
Winchester and Friel exchanged chances before United’s Willie Faulkner was denied by the base of the post, with Friel smashing his follow-up wide.
Burke made another fantastic one-handed stop to thwart Fra McCaffrey as the visitors sought a route back into the contest but, try as they might, there was no way through as the Reds held on.
CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, Ives, Bonner, McGuinness, Knowles, McDaid, Garrett, Hughes, Harkin, Winchester, Cosgrove. Subs: Curran, M Donnelly (Winchester, 82 mins), Catney (Harkin, 45 mins), Lavery (Hughes, 71 mins), A Donnelly.
BALLYMENA: Glendinning, T Kane, Owens, Jenkins, McCloskey, Faulkner, Friel, Ervin, Millar, Loughran, McCracken. Subs: Lowry (Faulkner, 83 mins), McVey, Mackle (Friel, 80 mins), McCaffrey (McCloskey, 41 mins), McCauley.
REFEREE: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown)